Windemere Beaver Dam Park

I have had the privilege to visit several parks with my daughter and granddaughter as they have been working on their blog for the past 8 months!

With the holidays, I asked if I, her sister Ginni, and Ginni’s husband, Blair, could take the baby to a nearby park for the Twelfth Day of Raleigh Parks Christmas and let us take pictures and blog!

Well here it is and to all who know me, I will keep the four letter words to “park”!

Windemere Beaver Dam Park is a wonderful neighbor park – quiet, peaceful and serene!

If I lived in this neighborhood I would be bitter, because I would have to share with all (lol)!

I also realized I was not the only grandparent enjoying the Raleigh sunshine that day, as the park had several families celebrating and enjoying a gorgeous day with their babies just like me.

Windemere Beaver Dam Park is located at 1500 Nottingham Rd in the median between Brooks Ave and Nottingham Rd. It is a wonderful place for families to celebrate just about anything, not only Christmas, but birthdays, soccer/t-ball/pick-up games, etc. They have a couple of picnic tables and numerous benches to take a rest if you are walking, jogging, or running on the nearby greenway trails. You can take a quiet walk and visit the babbling brook that goes around the outskirts of the park; and how wonderful that would be on a hot summer day, to dip your piggies!

In my opinion one of the best features is the open field, where you can play good old fashioned games of kickball, freeze tag, dodge ball, Red Rover, Red Light/Green Light, and of course soccer, lacrosse, t-ball, etc. I would suggest to bring your own chairs so you can be mobile between the open fields to the jungle gym/swings.

The playground area offers 2 slides, 2 swings for us big people and also 2 additional tot swings for our babies.

I truly think the best part of this neighborhood park is how the City of Raleigh kept it in its natural environment! It is a wonderful habitat, great for bird watching, as I saw several cardinals (male and female), chickadees, mocking birds, finches, nuthatches, great for a beginner bird watcher! They have everything they need to survive – food, water and shelter.

I’m grateful that Raleigh has one of the BEST park systems on the East Coast! Being just a visitor to this city over the past 9 nine years, I’d like to thank the citizens and the city council for making your parks a priority in their budget/bond referendums over the past several decades.

Thumbs Up: great family outings, jogging trails, natural habitat

Thumbs Down: parking, lack of park sign, not very stroller-friendly

Under Construction: House Creek Greenway

Over the last few months I’ve noticed the new paved trail near Ridgewood Shopping Center and then the new pedestrian tunnels take shape along the beltline.  All of this has led me to ask, “What is going on?”  So, on the third day of Raleigh Parks visits, we did some exploratory research into the pedestrian tunnels and new paved trails that have been popping up in the area.

It seems the new greenway trails are part of the House Creek Greenway Trail that is currently under construction.  According to the Raleigh Parks and Rec website, this will be a 2.9 mile greenway that will extend from the Reedy Creek Trail at the I-440 pedestrian bridge to Crabtree Creek Trail at the intersection of Blue Ridge Rd and Crabtree Valley Blvd.  This piece of the greenway will give folks in North Raleigh a pedestrian trail for accessing Umstead Park.

In looking at the proposed trail map, this section of the greenway will start near the intersection of Wade Ave and Ridge Rd and head west along the inner beltline, go under Lake Boone Trail, go under Glen Eden Dr, meander through Glen Eden Pilot Park and then come out on Blue Ridge Rd near the McDonald’s.  From there, you can easily access Crabtree Creek Trail.

As I mentioned, we were out today to just explore what’s going on, especially since all the trails are still under construction and closed at this point.  We can’t wait to report back in Spring 2012 after it’s all finished!

Thumbs up: increased greenway access, pedestrian options for accessing Umstead Park, informative Raleigh Parks & Rec website

Thumbs down: nothing to report so far

Kiwanis Park & Crabtree Creek Trail

A few weeks ago we headed down to Lassiter Mill Park again to access the nearby greenway via Crabtree Creek Trail for a run. Little did we know that after a mile and half into our run, we would come to Kiwanis Park. It was a nice surprise and a good break from the run, as we weren’t anticipating either!

Following the greenway was a bit tricky in some places.  If starting near Lassiter Mill Park, you’ll  eventually come to Claremont Rd, where the greenway signs stop.  Take a left onto Claremont Rd and then cross Anderson Dr where Claremont Rd turns into Oxford Rd.  Stay on the sidewalks and you’ll shortly see the next portion of the greenway on your left, which will lead you straight to Kiwanis Park.  Despite the trickiness of the greenway, this has turned out to be one of the favorite running trails in Raleigh.  It is super FLAT and the bridges and scenery you pass make the running seem effortless at times.

The Kiwanis Park is located at 2525 Noble Rd just inside the beltline. It has a playground area with a jungle gym, but no swings. There are also several large open fields, mostly used for playing soccer. There is a sand volleyball court, baseball fields, and a basketball court. The nearby community center is not staffed and is available for rent.  The large pavilion has several picnic tables and restrooms.

Even though you can get to the park by car, why not make this a greenway/park/brunch adventure with the kids! 1) Run/walk 1.5 miles with the stroller on the greenway to the park, 2) let them burn up some energy on the playground while you rest from your run/walk, 3) then run/walk 1.5 miles back followed by 4) yummy brunch at Nofo at the Pig!

Thumbs up: flat portion of greenway, scenery along greenway, playground, open fields at park, recreational sports

Thumbs down: signage along parts of greenway, no swings on playground

Kaplan Drive Park

This post originally appeared on southwestraleigh.com, where you can learn more about what a great place South West Raleigh is to live, work, and play.

There is a small neighborhood park nestled between I-440, Kaplan Drive, and a residential area where parking is only available on the street. The tall trees try to muffle the noisy highway sounds, but after all, this is a city park inside the beltline. And if you’re jogging or walking by Kaplan Drive Park at 5208 Kaplan Drive, you can stop by to use the fitness stations.

Kaplan Drive Park has a 1/4 mile paved loop with 10 fitness stations and two benches scattered about.  There is a small stream running through the loop and two bridges to cross, making it fun to explore for turtles or other water creatures.  The paved trail surrounds a heavily wooded forest boasting diverse trees, putting your child’s tree identification kit to good use.

There are two large open fields at this park: one just below the tree line of I-440 and another near Kaplan Drive.  The fields could be perfect for frisbee, a game of tag, or other fun kid activities.  Unfortunately, there aren’t any picnic tables at the park, so bring a large blanket for a picnic in one of the many open, shady spots.

Even though this isn’t a destination park per se, it’s a fun neighborhood park to explore on a walk with the dog or a jog down the street.

Thumbs up: shade, trees for possible leaf identification project, fitness stations

Thumbs down:  slightly slippery trail due to moss, no picnic tables, noisiness of I-440

Lake Raleigh

Benches on the fishing pier

This post originally appeared on southwestraleigh.com, where you can learn more about what a great place South West Raleigh is to live, work, and play.

The last time I was at Lake Raleigh (unknowingly) was during last year’s Polar Plunge 5k race with the Raleigh Jaycees.  The race started near the lake, meandered through Centennial Campus, and then ended back at the lake where several people plunged into Lake Raleigh…in February!  All for a good cause nonetheless.

Visiting Lake Raleigh on a cool-summer-almost-Fall-time day is a much more practical way to explore the lake.

Open to the public, Lake Raleigh is located on NC State’s Centennial Campus, nestled between college buildings, corporate/government/non-profit partners, and residential space.  Like any place you visit on a college campus, parking will always be a nuisance.  There is a small parking lot at Lake Raleigh, but it requires an NC State parking permit Mon-Fri from 7am-5pm.  You can pick up a $2 visitor day pass from the visitor center or plan to go during other times.  There is also parking along Main Campus Dr, but those too have parking restrictions.

A quiet fishing spot down from the piers

Fishing is permitted in marked areas and non-motorized car-top boats such as kayaks or canoes are also allowed in the lake.  There are two fishing piers near the entrance with long benches, perfect for enjoying the views or waiting for a bite.  The paved trail is part of the Centennial Greenway, which is a work-in-progress.

The trail extends in both directions past the main entrance, but does not loop around the lake.  If you walk to the right, you’ll pass other popular fishing spots, wetlands, The Shores residential area, and a bridge perfect for taking photos.  If you walk to the left, you’ll pass gorgeous views of the lake, the SOUL community garden, the 9-hole par 3 frisbee golf course, and an exercise station before coming to the tunnel under Main Campus Dr.

As noted above, the trail is part of the Centennial Greenway, which is a fitness trail and educational tool for the campus community.  Little mowing is done around Lake Raleigh to allow the natural plants to thrive.  Future development of the greenway will connect Centennial Greenway to the Capital Area Greenway at Lake Wheeler Rd and Lake Johnson.

Thumbs up:  beautiful views, fishing, boating, frisbee golf course

Thumbs down:  parking, lack of area map near main entrance

Lake Johnson Park

Picturesque. Serene. Beloved. All words to describe my recent visits to Lake Johnson Park.

Lake Johnson Park is located in the heart of southwest Raleigh at 4601 Avent Ferry Rd. Its popularity is evident with the many parking lots scattered throughout the park. On two of the mornings I visited, I had to loop around the lot a few times before a spot opened up. Other parking areas are highlighted on this map and can be found further down Avent Ferry Rd on the left, off Lake Dam Dr, at Athens Dr High School, or at Lake Johnson Pool.

The main entrance is where you’ll find the large veranda, deck, conference room, concessions, restrooms, rentals, live bait/tackle vending machines, and the boat put-in area. The veranda, conference room, and deck are available for rent. Paddle boats, jon boats, sunfish sailboats and canoes/kayaks are also available for rent. Rocking chairs along the perimeter of the deck provide peaceful views of the lake. There are also several picnic tables and information boards highlighting several of the unique park programs (boot camp, nature photography, fly fishing, sailing). Even though most have already begun, the fall programs such as the kayak and canoe lessons for ages 12+ are starting soon. Call 919-233-2121 for more information. Stroller Strides also runs fitness classes for moms/dads with kids on Tues/Thurs mornings and is beginning a mom/dad 5k training program on Friday, Aug. 26th.

Avent Ferry Rd splits Lake Johnson in half and there is a paved trail loop on the eastern half and an unpaved trail loop on the western half. The trail is the Lake Johnson Segment of the Walnut Creek greenway trail. Park maps can be found at several of the parking areas, but if you head east on the trail from the main entrance you’ll find a helpful map detailing distances and features of the park.

Distances around the park:

  • West Loop (unpaved, prohibited to biking) = 2.15 miles
  • East Loop (paved) = 2.75 miles
  • Full Loop = 4.33 miles
  • East to west loop from the bridge = 1.32 miles

East Trail – This is a wide, paved path perfect for biking, strolling kids/dogs, walking, and running. The trail is enveloped in large trees that provide great shade. You’ll find beautiful views of the lake throughout this trail, especially along the dam and boardwalk. You’ll also pass a few benches, swings, and shelters for rent along this trail. Shelter 2 has two picnic tables and a large charcoal grill and Shelter 4 has four picnic tables, several benches, and a large charcoal grill. Magnolia Cottage is a medium-sized building tucked deep in the woods that can also be rented for events. If you head clockwise on the trail from the main parking lot the trail starts off flat and then gets rather hilly after crossing the dam.

West Trail – This is a fun trail for hiking or trail running. Bikes are prohibited and I would recommend using a Baby Bjorn or back pack if bringing an infant/very young child. Use caution on the trail, as it is mostly a narrow, hilly, dirt trail with roots covering the path. Nature photography opportunities are galore on this trail. You can also access Lake Johnson Pool from the West Trail. Even though we didn’t have time for a visit inside the pool, from the outside there looks to be a spray garden, baby pool, and main pool with lap lanes and free swim area.

After a two year hiatus from visiting Lake Johnson Park until last week, I’ve been back three times and it is quickly becoming a favorite. Between the scenic views, boating opportunities, great running trails, and safeness of the area it’s a must-visit park!

Thumbs up: shady trails, scenic views, condition of paved trail, boating opportunities, security, facility rentals, mile markers along East trail, peacefulness

Thumbs down: confusing signage (especially along West Trail)

This post originally appeared on soutwestraleigh.com, where you can learn more about what a great place South West Raleigh is to live, work, and play.

Umstead Park – Reedy Creek & Reedy Creek Lake Trails

Two weekends ago we made a short drive to the Umstead Park entrance near the intersection of Reedy Creek Rd and Trenton Rd to try our new BOB stroller. We parked in the grassy median between the paved greenway trail and Reedy Creek Rd since there isn’t an actual parking lot. Be careful to abide by the parking signs.

Once in the park, we decided to head straight and follow the Reedy Creek Trail, which we’ve biked several times in the past. It’s a wide, gravel, mostly shady trail that is great for walking, running, biking, and horse back riding.  It’s a very long trail that eventually goes past the Airport Overlook, crosses I-40 west of Harrison Ave, and connects with the Black Creek Greenway.  Even though we didn’t see any horses that day, we’ve definitely seen them on cooler days.  The new stroller glided over the gravel trail, but we did have to be more careful when going over washout areas.
Along Reedy Creek Trail, you’ll pass access to other popular trails such as the Loblolly Trail (heavily wooded trail for hiking) and Reedy Creek Lake Trail (access to the Harrison Ave entrance of Umstead Park).  Knowing the Reedy Creek Lake Trail is a relatively short walk and passes by Reedy Creek Lake we made a sharp left turn onto Reedy Creek Lake Trail.  You’ll immediately pass by Reedy Creek Lake, which is great for photo ops but swimming is prohibited.  Horses are not allowed any further on this trail either.  Here is a 360 degree video taken along the trail by the lake.

Continuing on the trail is a long, steep hill that eventually flattens out.  It’s quite shady and also a gravel path, perfect for using the new stroller.  Eventually you’ll come to the trail head at the paved Reedy Creek Pkwy, which leads to the Harrison Ave entrance of Umstead Park.  Follow Reedy Creek Pkwy where you’ll pass the Park Ranger’s residence and eventually come to the large Harrison Ave parking lot.  We needed to refill our water bottles, so once in the parking lot we stopped at the first shelter on the left, Shelter #2.  We followed the paved sidewalk where we passed several picnic tables, charcoal grills, recycling areas, a water fountain, and a large pavilion for Shelter #2.

After a water refill, we quickly began our hike back to beat the encroaching heat!  This has to be one of my favorite trails in Raleigh.  It’s a great combination of shade, scenery, and steepness.  Even though we walked most of the hike, the steep hills made for an exhausting workout.  To extend your ride/walk further start by parking at the NC Museum of Art and following Reedy Creek Rd across Blue Ridge Rd and Edwards Mill Rd before arriving at Umstead Park.

Distances:

  • 1.1 miles from Reedy Creek Rd entrance to Reedy Creek Lake
  • 1.7 miles from Reedy Creek Rd entrance to Reedy Creek Pkwy
  • 2.4 miles from Reedy Creek Rd entrance to Harrison Ave entrance

Thumbs up: wide, shady trails, helpful maps, scenic views, good combination of steep hills and flat roads, access to other trails, signs and maps

Thumbs down: little parking near Reedy Creek Rd entrance

Weekend Agenda

So, BOB arrived this week! He’s navy blue and black with hints of gray, very sturdy and reliable, and was a complete surprise! BOB is not another BT rescue (2 is plenty) or a weekend guest; he’s my new jogging stroller! Everyone I’ve talked to who runs with their baby and young kids swears by BOB. Despite the price tag, it’ll be something you’ll still be using with kid 2+. So my sweet mom and mom-in-law conspired (on the advice of my husband I’m sure) to get me this early birthday present and I can’t be more excited! We love our current stroller deeply and will use it 75% of the time, but with the uneven sidewalks and gravel trails around here, Ashley looked like she was going to catapult out if I didn’t do a wheelie over every little bump.

BOB allows us to take our park exploration to a whole other level, so tomorrow morning we’ll be heading over to Umstead Park to probably hike the S. Turkey Creek Trail and Reedy Creek Lake Trail. These are ones we’ve biked pre-baby and they should be nice, shady trails for Ashley and the BTs.

But before we head to Umstead tomorrow, we’ll be heading out to Thomas Brooks park tonight at 5pm to watch the 16u and 18u PONY softball championship games.  Today is the last day of the tournament, which was co-hosted by the Raleigh Jaycees and NC ChallengersThomas Brooks park is run by the Town of Cary and it’s a first class softball complex.

On Sunday morning I’m heading up to DC to meet my sisters and friends for the Britney concert…should.be.awesome!  While I’m out of town I’m putting my husband on assignment (he’s finding this out while reading now) to explore a new park with Ashley and write about it for next week.  He’ll be so excited!  Happy weekend to you all!

Morrisville Community Park


After a rained-out start to our shift on Monday night, Tuesday proved to be plenty hot and sunny! Tuesday night we headed to Morrisville Community Park at 1520 Morrisville Parkway where the 10u girls age group was playing.  This park is run by the Town of Morrisville Parks System and it did not disappoint!

The softball fields used for the tournament are in the back, but you can’t help but stop and stare at the gigantic playground area on your way in. I think this playground is in competition with the Anderson Point Park playground for its massive size and ability to entertain! This playground has several jungle gyms hooked together by various bridges. There are also two swing sets and a shaded gazebo in the middle perfect for a picnic. The main playground sits on a rubbery base and adjacent to it is a sandy play area with see saws. A 0.6 mile paved jogging trail loop, which is part of the Hatcher Creek Greenway, is close by as well.

Playground area
Gazebo in middle of playground
Biggest playground ever!
Parking lot near playground
Access to the Hatcher Creek Greenway

Follow the walkway past the playground to the restrooms and adjacent pavilion with picnic tables and charcoal grill. There is a small open area in front of the pavilion too.

Pavilion with picnic tables and charcoal grill
Shady area near pavilion
Restrooms near playground and pavilion

Continuing on the walkway you’ll pass a large open field (mostly used for soccer according to another volunteer) and a small softball field with bleachers.

Smaller softball field
Open field

Finally in the back of the park are the two lighted softball fields, concession area, water fountain, and restrooms. Both fields have covered team benches and uncovered spectator bleachers. Today was a hot one for playing and watching softball so most of the team’s families brought in canopies, which they set up over the bleachers.

View towards Field 1
Field #1
Let's play ball!
Field #2
Restrooms and concessions
Water fountain
Benches along the walkway
Paved walkway

We were set up next to field 2 so we had a good view of the thrilling pickle, slides into third base, and outs at home. And these were only the 10u games!  I encourage everyone to come out and watch the games.  10u, 12u, and 14u Championship games will be played on Thursday at Middle Creek (10u and 12u) and Thomas Brooks (14U) parks.  16u and 18u Championship games will be played on Friday at Thomas Brooks park.  Stay up to date with dates and times on the PONY website.

Pretty tired after a long night of volunteering
Future volunteers! Chris with his daughter, Kennedy, and me with Ashley!

A nice feature to this park is the proximity of the parking lots to the playground, pavilion, and softball fields. There are large pockets of parking throughout the park.

Thumbs up: proximity of parking areas, functionality of walkways, quality of softball fields, friendly Town of Morrisville staff
Thumbs down: lack of shady seating near main softball fields

North Hills Park

North Hills park is located at 100 Chowan Circle in North Raleigh. Overall this is a basic neighborhood park with B+ features. As you arrive there is a medium-sized parking lot with a nice lighted baseball field on the right. It has bleacher seating for the spectators and a water fountain near the far team’s bench area. The adjacent grassy hill also provides plenty of additional seating.

Baseball field
Bleacher seating near baseball field

Water fountain near far team's bench
Another view of lit baseball field

At the top of the grassy hill is a building for restrooms and the Buffaloe family cemetery.

Building with restrooms
Buffaloe family cemetery

If you continue driving past the baseball field you arrive at the back parking lot near the two lighted tennis courts, playground, pavilion with picnic and access to the greenway. The playground has several connected jungle gyms with a hard mulch base and a smaller sandy playground. The pavilion has 6 picnic tables and a nearby charcoal grill. The wide, paved sidewalk provides easy from the parking lot around the playground and pavilion.

Large back parking lot
Tennis courts
Playground area
Another view of the playground
Sandy playground area
Benches and sidewalk near playground in the shade
Pavilion with picnic tables
Nearby charcoal grill

The access to the greenway is near the tennis courts. This is the North Hills Segment of the Crabtree Creek Trail and it is 1/4 mile of steeply sloped paved pathway. Going down isn’t bad, but pushing the stroller back up was quite a workout! I would definitely recommend the baby bjorn for this segment. The trail tees into the Crabtree Creek Trail, where if you go left you’ll head south towards Lassiter Mill Park and if you turn right you’ll head north towards Shelley Lake.

Access to Crabtree Creek Trail greenway
Beginning of paved greenway
Signs at the end of the North Hill Segment of the trail
Head left towards Lassiter Mill Park
Head right towards Shelley Lake

It’s amazing to think that under all these overpasses and adjacent to creeks and roadways exists this other world of trails.  Navigating through the greenways really helps you get a better sense of direction and helps you realize how close these parks really are to each other. It sort of reminds me of a foreign place like Middle Earth in LOTR.  I encourage you all to explore the greenway.  A lot of the trails are paved and shaded and would make for a great adventure with dogs, loved ones, or a group of friends.  So, pick a greenway segment, find a parking lot, and explore!

All smiles again

Thumbs up: quality of amenities, large parking lots, large playground, easy access to greenway, sidewalk access to pavilion and playground areas
Thumbs down: no sidewalk from baseball field to playground area